When social media entrepreneur Ebony Penny came across BMW Z3 unloved in a car park, she made the move to ownership from renting.
My Car: Dubai resident rescues Bond-era BMW Z3
It's a subject we often discuss here at Motoring. Why (as I foolishly continue to do) waste money on a rubbish hire car when you can have something way better for a lot less money? I need to start practising what I preach. I know this. And after meeting this week's My Car star - the brilliantly named Ebony Penny and her BMW Z3 - I know I need to do it sooner rather than later. Because it would save me heaps of cash and enable me to actually enjoy the drive to and from work.
Ebony, 25, has lived in Dubai for three years, having come here from West Sussex, in the UK. And, for the past year, she has been running her own business called Word of Mouth. If anyone ever doubted the importance of social media networking, a couple of minutes with Penny would put them straight because it's the cornerstone of her business. "We manage social media for a large selection of clients, setting up Facebook and Twitter accounts and keeping them fed with material," she explains. And business is doing very well indeed.
As for the car, it happened to be languishing, unloved and caked in dirt, in the car park of her apartment building. "I'd been looking for a car for ages but I didn't want to spend a fortune on it because I feared it would end up being wrecked after seeing the way everyone seems to drive out here," she says. "And this BMW had been left unused for months so I started asking around about it. Eventually I saw the owner and asked if he wanted to sell it. He said he did and the next day it was mine.
"Buying it [she haggled him down from Dh20,000 to just Dh16,000] was always going to be cheaper than renting a car. I've had it just seven months and it's easily paid for itself already."
And even though she got it for less than the asking price, the previous owner still fitted it with a full set of new Bridgestone tyres, a new battery and had it re-registered. A bit of a bargain, then? Absolutely, when you consider it had done less than 60,000km when she bought it.
It's not in mint condition, as Penny readily admits, but it's extremely tidy and it's not until you look really closely that you notice any imperfections. Like any car subject to the extreme heat of the UAE's summers, the plastic rear window of the canvas hood has gone a bit milky and some of the rubber seals have started to perish, but does that really matter? It's not like we get much rain out here, is it? It's a 2.0L model, meaning its straight-six engine is unstressed and good for no more than 148hp. But it's enough for Penny.
She says it's been perfectly reliable and, aside from an exhaust pipe bracket coming loose, it hasn't needed any work apart from the usual routine servicing and having the air conditioning re-gassed. It's a daily driver too. "If I need to go to a meeting in Dubai then I take this. But if it's in Abu Dhabi then I avail myself of a friend's four-by-four, because there's no way I'd feel comfortable driving that road in a small sports car." Can't say I blame her.
She says its lack of power steering is delightful; that it feels incredibly direct. "I'm always fiddling with the stereo, though, which means I can tend to wobble about in my lane." And what about the roof? Is it ever driven roof-down in the summer? "No, it's just too hot right now but, come the end of October, we'll see. But there's a drawback to driving here with the roof down - I tend to catch the sun too easily and my forehead ends up getting sunburnt, so maybe I'm best reserving that for night-time driving. And I can't drive with the roof down if I'm going to meet clients because the wind just destroys my hairstyle!"
I'm not sure if this is lost on her, but Penny is the owner of a bona fide Bond car (she would have been aged just nine when GoldenEye hit the big screen). And while the Z3 will never reach the status of the Aston Martin DB5, it's still a stylish and fun way to get around. And, being a BMW, it's extremely well built. A Bond car for Dh16,000 - who would have thought it?